Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Sunflower Festival brings Mountain City alive

Across much of the United States, summertime festivals are an eagerly awaited event. Each year, Mountain City holds its own summer festival, the ever-popular Sunflower Festival. Despite a grueling hot day, Main Street was packed this past Saturday with vendors who were lined up and down the sidewalks and down the middle of the road. Each new booth, each new table had something special to offer for those who ventured out to enjoy the day.
As Johnson County's own Young at Heart Square Dancers began to entertain their audience with their lively music and do-si-do, the delicious smells of sausage and onions, chicken, hot dogs and French fries drifted through the air. Ted Gentry of Big Daddy's was back again with his mouth-watering chicken, pulled-pork barbecue and freshly squeezed lemonade. Crazy John's “Kickin Chickin” offered wings and more, a local favorite of many Johnson Countians. Those who came with an empty stomach soon found themselves tempted with the many choices the vendors had to offer.
This year, there were many artists who shared their talents at the Sunflower Festival. William Menya was at the festival once again with his beautiful handmade wooden and soapstone creations. Menya, originally from Kenya, hand paints his wooden boxes and plates with traditional African designs. His designs are intricate and beautiful, and his work is unique and detailed. “My grandfather taught me,” he said.
Joanie DeNuncio is from Tater Hill, North Carolina. DeNuncio teaches pottery at a senior center just over the mountain in Boone, North Carolina. She explained that her pottery is hand built and wheel thrown. Her selection included plates, mugs, vases and dinnerware. All of her stoneware is ovenproof, dishwasher and microwave safe. For those who love pottery, finding DeNuncio at the event was definitely a treat.
One of the more unique items to be found this year was purses made out of duct tape. This wasn't your standard gray duct tape that many of us keep on hand for emergencies or packing boxes. These were colorful purses in every color and combination one could imagine. They are the brainchild of Bags by Bree, a 14-year old young entrepreneur. As handles on any bag or purse take a lot of wear and tear, Bree takes care to reinforce the handles to give a bit more support.
Bill Lyons and Doug Henne have partnered up to create beautiful wooden items, including walking sticks, birdhouses and intricate wooden bears. These are just a few of the items they enjoy crafting and had on display for sale. Henne explained that some of the work is carved with a chain saw, while others are carved by hand with the help of a chisel and mallet. Just around the bend, two women had a large selection of crocheted items, including a hat in the famous orange and white for the Tennessee Volunteers. When they aren't crocheting for craft shows, these two ladies donate their work to St. Jude's Hospital for cancer patients.
This year, there were several vendors who had handcrafted jewelry for sale. Shoppers could find handmade placemats, napkins and homemade toys. There were books for sale by local artists and bright birdhouses. There were slingshots, handmade signs and brightly beaded hair clips. If there was something special and unique shoppers were looking for, it could be found. For those who enjoy beauty pageants, Johnson County holds its own each year at the Sunflower Festival. Little girls, teenagers and somewhere in between eagerly awaited the results of the contest.
There is something special about a festival in the beautiful mountains of northeast Tennessee. It's more than the rising Appalachians that serve as a backdrop for a perfect picture and the bright, blue skies. It's a place where visitors are reminded of times gone by and instantly feel as if they have come home. The Sunflower Festival offered a perfect opportunity to enjoy all that this area has to offer.